Diverse Business Show Blog Talk Radio

Thursday, October 14, 2010

DIVERSITY: The Value of Mutual Respect

"Seek to understand before seeking to be understood."

-- Augustine, 4th Century

"A great many people think they are thinking when they
are merely rearranging their prejudices.
-- William James

"Always remember that you're unique.
Just like everybody else.
-- Anonymous

Diversity. Considered by some to be the "D" word! My philosophy in presenting the subject of diversity is best understood when considering an onion with its many layers. Each layer presents another opportunity to discuss the best ways to work together with greater harmony, understanding and mutual respect.
  • Fear of Loss

  • Cultural Competency

  • Professional Status

  • Religious Affiliations

  • Generational Influences

  • Disability Awareness

  • Gender Differences

  • Diversity/Personality Style

Of course there are many more layers in some organizations, like Political Differences, Musical Tastes, etc. I believe that workforce diversity is dealt with through the doorway of each unique personality style. I also believe in presenting the material in an honest, vulnerable manner that doesn't leave people merely tolerating (heartily dislike that word in this context!) each other.

Participants are encouraged to connect with others who can become their cultural guides and/or historical guides as they seek to understand before seeking to be understood. As someone once said, "You can attack my head (I wasn't thinking), but please do not attack my heart (I mean well and truly want to learn)."

The "Egg Shell" Effect: Some diversity initiatives leave the participants in such a state of hyper-awareness about their differences that everyone is left walking on egg shells. On edge. Nervous. Fearful of saying something stupid. Risk-averse or risk-neutral. Very little sense of humor.

Enter the "anti-egg-shell" experience that engages both the head and the heart, encouraging participants to understand the risk/reward ratio. The higher the personal risk of vulnerability, curiosity and openness, the greater the relational payoff. Embracing the spice of life!

It's the wisdom that emerges from the curiosity-driven life -- possessing the potential of transcending the humdrum work environment into a transformational diversity-astute lifestyle (24/7).

The freedom to enjoy the humor (even laughing at ourselves) is one of the side benefits of greater understanding...as we delight in learning about ourselves and others around us. This is the kind of stuff I am passionate about!


Low ------->
Medium --->
High ------->


------> Low
----> Medium
------> High

Everyone approaches workforce diversity in their own style. Some folks are more blustery in their approach while others are more quiet and reserved. It's hard to know what they are really thinking. Attitudes may be strongly felt, but are not as readily accessible to co-workers. Still others deal with diversity as a task to be accomplished. For some their task is completed for that day when they leave to go home -- picking up the next morning with the desire to continue with the completion of the task.

Understanding diversity begins by awakening the understanding our own "hot buttons" and discovering how and perhaps why we behave the way we do. People around us do not respond to our intentions. They respond to our behavior. Regardless of our individual values and convictions, it is paramount that co-workers treat each other with respect, compassion and integrity.

My initial focus is in helping participants take an inward look, understanding more about their own strengths and vulnerabilities. This is done with a certain gentle artistry in which no one has his or her dignity or self-respect stripped in the process. It's a lot of fun.

Then I help participants take an outward look -- how they interact with others around them. Here we show participants how they can, not only understand their co-workers, but also have the skills necessary in exporting this knowledge to their other relationships. People who are happier at home tend to be happier and more productive at work and vice versa.

Working in a diverse workforce stretches and challenges everyone's internal world. Gender, race, generational issues and other layers cause all of us to take a brand new look at personal prejudices and narrow-mindedness. At the same time, each new layer provides another wonderful opportunity to seek to understand before seeking to be understood. (Near the bottom of this page is the difference between a proactive and reactive approach to diversity.)

Training, education and skills determine the "what" we do. Values are the "why" we do things the way we do them. Behavior and emotions are the "how" we do what we do. Co-workers do not respond to intentions, they respond to behavior. That is why we focus upon the "how" and what sponsors it from the inside out.

* HOW: Determine your personal approach to diversity
* PROBLEMS - How you approach the diverse problems and challenges
* PEOPLE - How you interact with and attempt to influence others
* PACE - How you respond to change and activities
* PROCEDURE - How you respond to rules and regulations set by others

Civility in the workplace must be expected and is imposed externally by any organization wishing to remain competitive. But there is higher level of success that emerges from harnessing the power of mutual respect and cross-cultural understanding. Mutual respect must spring from the internal structures of each individual. For this to truly capture the culture of the organization this must cascade down from the senior leadership to every level of the organization -- enhancing creativity, productivity and an emotionally safe environment.

-- by Joel A. Freeman, Ph.D., CEO/President, The Freeman Institute® www.DiversityCrazy.com

Return on Investment (R.O.I.): Some futurists predict that before or by the year 2050 there will be no clearly defined racial/cultural majority in the USA. Demographic changes and shifting attitudes in the nation result in a different face of the workforce. In work environments where differences in gender, race, religion, or other cultural aspects are not addressed, undue tension results. Our diversity training approach moves beyond a basic awareness of differences; we help people learn skills to cope more effectively with the challenges of facing diversity in a responsible and reflective manner. The proactive implementation of the contents of this diversity program can't help but usher in greater productivity and creativity in any organization.

About the author: Joel A. Freeman, Ph.D., President/CEO, Freeman Institute®
"Dealing With People Who Drive You Crazy!"®
www.WorkHardWorkSmart.com -- Freeman's New Book
www.FreemanInstitute.com -- Freeman Institute
www.FreemanStuff.com -- TFI Online Store
www.CIDcoach.com -- Critical Incident Debriefing
www.Black101.com --Black History Collection
www.DiversityCrazy.com -- "Diversity: The Value of Mutual Respect"
www.AngerSeminar.com -- "When Strangling Someone Isn't An Option!"
www.JoelAFreeman.com -- Freeman's Bio

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